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Susan Lewis​'s Heisenberg’s Salon reviewed at The Friday Influence

 

lewis hs

review by José Angel Araguz

Drawing inspiration from German physicist Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which “states that the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa,” Susan Lewis’ latest collection, Heisenberg’s Salon (BlazeVOX [books]), presents a prose poem collection that evokes the form’s surrealist traditions while expanding on its logic-making means.

One can see this idea of position and momentum reformulated in poetic terms in these lines from the title poem:

Every time she turned her back, the apartment rearranged itself. Each version created a home for another way of life.

From there, the reader follows the main character adapting to her constantly rearranging apartment, curling up and reading Victorian fiction when she “[discovers] the couch under the picture window,” and setting the next meal when “the dining table was there instead.” In a similar manner, the reader of this collection adapts to each poem’s engagement with and rearrangement of familiar linguistic territory. The aptly named “Indeterminacy” is a good example of adapting to rearrangement:

Indeterminacy

It was time for something, although she could not for the life of her imagine what. So she assumed her post on the stoop & waited for the future to declare itself. A tattered bird of dubious provenance landed on the banister & inspected her with his ancient gaze. She exhaled with emphasis, but otherwise managed to keep her preconceptions to herself. The old fellow cocked his head & screeched. Terrific, she said. How am I supposed to know if you’re the one I’m waiting for? Terrific, he squawked. How am I supposed to know if you’re the one I’m waiting for? I get it, she said, bravely extending her arm. I get it, he echoed, latching on with admirable decision. It was the last conversation they ever had.

Here, the first half of the poem positions two characters in places of waiting. There is a push and pull between interiority and meaning at work; because “she could not for the life of her imagine what” it was time for (keyword here being imagine, an act of interiority), she is forced to look outside herself. Thus positioned, the conversation that takes place in the second half of the poem works as momentum, giving the scene the urgency of question and response. The phrasing of a “tattered bird” also leaves things ambiguous; one can envision a parrot playing out the conversation that follows, merely echoing the other character. And yet, the choice to not be specific about the kind of bird it is leaves room for the fantastical. From this uncertainty, the imagining the other character was incapable of on her own becomes an outer moment of imagination via this “conversation” with the bird.

This transformation via uncertainty plays out for the reader much like the conversation plays out for the characters, strictly in the moment, in the rush as the pieces of the poem come together. There is a thrill in this kind of poetry that speaks of a sensibility awake to the materials at the core a poem, how to get the “tattered bird” of familiar language to say something new. As plot requires conflict, these poems point to lyricism as its pulse.

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GHOST / LANDSCAPE is reviewed in The Colorado Review

 

Having thoroughly enjoyed Kristina Marie Darling’s The Sun & the Moon, I was eager to read Ghost / Landscape, a collaborative narrative book of prose poems Darling cowrote with John Gallaher. They did not disappoint. Ghost / Landscape follows in the footsteps of Darling’s previous books and her ongoing attempt to recapture and rebuild fractured lives. The collection revisits themes dear to Darling such as ghosts, locks and keys, ice and fire, dreams and memories, which she shares with John Gallaher. In an interview with Matthew Thorburn in Ploughshares, Gallaher says: “As In a Landscape was something of a reaction to writing the collaborative book, Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, with G.C. Waldrep, so this new book, called Ghost / Landscape, with Kristina Marie Darling, is a reaction to writing the very personal, conversational In a Landscape. Also, Ghost / Landscape is in prose, which is something I’ve also long wanted to do.” Darling and Gallaher are very well suited to each other, their voices perfectly synchronized, in unison, as if they shared one life and story: “It matters who your friends are. This is true for a wide variety of species, because we all think we’re having different lives, when really there’s only one life and we’re sharing it.” One blends into the other, becomes the other. “We knew the house was haunted, but at first, we were unsure which one of us was the ghost. Because you were always talking about role reversals . . . It’s like looking in a mirror.”

Ghost / Landscape reads like a puzzle or mystery to be solved, elucidated. The collection starts with “Chapter Two” and ends with “Chapter One,” and presents several versions of “Chapter Two,” or perhaps the same one examined through different lenses and angles.

The reader walks a labyrinth, searching for clues, each chapter relinquishing a few while simultaneously adding to the mystery. Miscommunication, false starts, and missed encounters abound, often with failed telephone calls and remembered conversations: “No matter what number I dial, you never seem to answer . . . I tried to phone you, but we’d reached the very edge of the meadow.”

Adding to the mystery are the recurring locks and keys. “And there’s a reason the rooms were locked . . . Still, the doors are locked and no one answers when we ring the little bell.” Margaret Atwood recently shared in an interview with Grant Munroe for Lit Hub: “It’s all about locks and keys, and it always has been about locks and keys.” Secrets are fascinating and beg to tell a story; they stimulate the imagination. The speaker is unable to escape. “Are you still in Omaha and is there any way you can come unlock the door?” The locks and keys by turns suppress information—little is ultimately revealed—and guard secrets, for good or evil. They fuel the curious kind of haunting that plagues and enlivens the book—nothing quite fits or opens in the way it should.

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Tony Trigilio interviewed on 2paragraphs

 

Author Tony Trigilio On ‘Inside the Walls of My Own House’

Inside the Walls of My Own House Dark Shadows

Tony Trigilio is the author of Inside the Walls of My Own House: The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood), Book 2. A poet and scholar, Trigilio has also written about other poets in his books Allen Ginsberg’s Buddhist Poetics (2007) and “Strange Prophecies Anew”: Rereading Apocalypse in Blake, H.D., and Ginsberg (2000)

2paragraphs: Why do you think Inside the Walls of My Own House: The Complete Dark Shadows (of My Childhood) is connecting with readers?

Tony Trigilio: I think the book is connecting with people for a couple different reasons. First, nearly everyone can relate to how pop culture—especially television—shapes intimate experiences with our loved ones. We’re never just passively watching with others. Instead, we’re sharing what we view. In this way, a TV show can be an intimate social occasion rather than just a visual product we consume in isolation. I should say a bit more about the background of the book before I go further. This is the second book of a multivolume poem. I intend to watch all 1,225 episodes of the old soap opera Dark Shadows, composing one sentence for each episode and shaping each sentence into verse form. Why Dark Shadows? In the first months and years of my life, I watched Dark Shadows every day with my mother, a devoted soap fan. I hardly understood what was going on—but I was certain the soap opera’s main character, the vampire Barnabas Collins, lived inside the walls of my own house, waiting for me to go to sleep so that he could bite my neck. This book has given me the space to write about memory in ways that none of my other books have. The reason for this, I think, is that the original experiences of watching the show with my mother were so intimate that they became anchors in my mind that other memories attached themselves to. Readers often tell me that this project reminds them of shows they shared with close family members. In our age of binge-watching, I’ve heard from a number of folks who’ve said my book has triggered in them a desire to write autobiographical material through the episode-by-episode lens of the favorite TV shows of their youth. I’d love to see more poems like this from others (and I’m sure these poems would affect my ongoing project, too).

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Yellow Rabbits Reviews The Demotion of Pluto: Poems and Plays by Deborah Meadows

 

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The Absence Of The Loved by Wade Stevenson Reviewed in Midwest Book Review

 
Absence of the Loved
Wade Stevenson
BlazeVOX Books
9781609642747, $16.00, www.blazevox.org 

Many poems and poetry collections focus on the presence of love, but Absence of the Loved is about that aftermath where love is gone, poetically describing the void left behind, the process of passing into something else, and what happens when transformation and change confront a relationship: "This morning we were born for something else".

Winter mornings, maddened minds, the compulsive drives of love and passion, and possession all coalesce in passionate, emotional pieces that grasp the essence of not a light romantic dream, but the agony and ecstasy of bonding with another both physically and emotionally.

From the throes of breakup and pain ("When I'm not grieving I trumpet destruction") to the inevitable progress towards a turning point where grief turns to renewal, Absence of the Loved is a poetic breakup diary like no other, chronicling the intimate passage of days and pain with the deft precision of a romantic martyr as the writer considers the absence of one with a 'penchant for parting'.

Again and again the times before departure are analyzed and probed, the impetus for change considered, and the faded spark of love from which the inevitability of leaving reviewed: "One day I will go so you will at last understand/This simplest of lessons: everything flows."

How long will loss last when "what we are is made of half of each other's wholeness"? It may not be a lifetime, but these moments are perfectly captured in a poetic gathering of experiences that intricately chronicles just what the process of and pain of letting go involves.

However, "The Absence of The Loved" is not just about loss. Although it starts that way, there is a progression, and fans of poetry will appreciate the various depths and nuances of feeling. In the end the poet transfigures his loss into a vibrant, radiant presence. The young woman that he loved becomes a symbol for "the loved". In the moving final poem "You and You Again", the circle is closed, there is no more absence --- what remains is Amor.

Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
Donovan's Literary Services

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Photos on flickr